Let’s Talk About Sex Baby!

Last weekend has been spent celebrating my gorgeous friend’s wedding with all my old school pals in the New Forest. She is the second one of us to tie the knot (after me) and looked just beautiful. The day was perfect in every way and as I type this I think the newly weds have already landed in Dubai for their ‘mini moon’, yup that’s a thing now – 1 honey moon just isn’t enough! As the weekend events has started coming back to me, it got me thinking about marriage, love, sex, babies and what the future means for newly married couples.

You see sex is such a funny old thing isn’t it. We’re still embarrassed about talking about it openly, so much so that when I talk to women postnatally about contraception I don’t know who is blushing more, me or the woman? Often the woman is looking at me like I’m mad and probably thinking ‘I have a new born baby, stitches that still haven’t healed and my breasts are so sore and swollen I feel like a Jersey cow but yes I can’t wait to have sex with my husband’. Am I right?

And it’s pretty silly really, as sex is the reason why you’re pregnant in the first place. I mean if it wasn’t for sex I would be out of a job and the world would be a very strange place.

SO why are we still so prudish about chatting about sex especially after you’ve had a baby? Us girls pretty much tell each other everything about our births but once that baby has left your body no one wants to be the first at the postnatal coffee group to say ‘we tried to have sex last night but I was so dry my partner couldn’t get it in.’ Women want to be seen to be handling it all, a new baby, her postnatal figure, sleep routines, the transition into motherhood so there’s no way anyone would want to confess that they haven’t had sex since their baby was born 8 months ago.

So when is the right time to have sex and what does it really feel like?

calander

The answer is; when you feel ready. That may be when your baby is 5 weeks old or when it’s 5 months old. Only you know your body and how you feel so don’t feel pressured by others or your partner for that matter. By the time you may be thinking about having sex you might have a vague idea when your baby might be asleep for more than 10 minutes preferably in the cot on not in the sling (awkward). Always pick a time when your baby has had a good feed especially if you’re breastfeeding (no one wants a leaky boob whilst their partner is on top) and has a clean nappy. Nothing like killing the moment to change an up-the-back-leaked-all-over-the-clean-babygrow-type-poo.

Unless you’re Tamara Ecclestone your post baby body isn’t going to look how it use to. I remember being horrified when looking down at my stomach whilst in a certain position during sex with my partner after my first baby thinking ‘will it always hang down like that???’  Obviously with a bit of time and work it did eventually look marginally more acceptable but it still wobbles and rolls in 3 places and I’d opt for the ‘spoons’ position rather than on top any day.

sex

For me and the majority of women out there, the first you have postnatal sex is a bit like ,well, the first time you ever had sex – awkward, embarrassing, nerve racking and uncomfortable. You hope it will be over fairly quickly (it often is) and you don’t really want to talk about it ever again.

As one of my friends recently shared with me after her first time,”I think sex after birth is an oxymoron in itself… It’s terrifyingly wonderful. I was petrified of wiping myself after having a wee, let alone having a willy go there!! However, it’s so lovely when you realise it all feels just as amazing and helps to reunite you as a couple.”

Try not to ask your partner if it feels wider, bigger, looser, softer or different during sex. It will put him off and kill the mood. You may feel different but you partner may not even notice. He will just be pleased to be able to have some intimacy with you after such a long break.

“The worst thing was the nerves. I was really tense – Would it hurt? Would he feel my stitches? What if I felt different or it wasn’t enjoyable for either of us? It was like it was my first time all over again! It wasn’t actually that bad or that uncomfortable, I think the fact that I was so tense was the biggest cause of discomfort. After lots of reassurance from my boyfriend and a few more go’s I’ve got my confidence back, have relaxed and am enjoying it much more again” another friend adds.

If you’ve had a c-section your vagina and perineum should feel and look the same as before you were pregnant (lucky you) but you may still feel sore around your scar and your stomach muscles can still feel pretty wounded. A position like ‘spoons’ is probably sensible as it doesn’t put any strain on your tummy.

If you’ve had a vaginal birth obviously make sure your tear is completely healed before embarking on a passionate night in the bedroom. (Usually at your 6 week postnatal check up with your GP you have the opportunity to raise any issues you may have about your perineum and vagina). You may want to even have a look with a mirror before hand and see how things are looking. Don’t be freaked out by this idea, you will be surprised how well the vaginal and perineal tissues heal. I had a small tear with no stitches and honestly I couldn’t see where the tear even was, let alone feel it.  And I have seen lots of women’s vaginas after they’ve had an episiotomy or a 2nd degree tear and again the tissues have healed really well. Getting to know what down there looks like is important for understanding how our bodies work and how well we heal after having babies. Go mother nature!

“I had trouble not only getting in the mood but also with lubricating naturally. My baby was breach and then ended up having to be an emergency c-section after sort of getting whipped out. With body confidence issues aside, I also found various angles of penetration extremely uncomfortable (probably due to the sweeps I had during labour and the fact that I almost managed to give birth naturally) After a few months, I finally got the confidence to do so and after a good long while I finally found a position that was completely comfortable with (on my side, him behind) this meant that I didn’t need to worry about my hideous tummy, but also the angle worked perfectly. It took over a year for things to return to normal but we took it very very slowly and eventually things returned to normal.”

It’s normal for the vagina to feel drier than usual after childbirth which is linked to lower levels of oestrogen in your body compared to when you were pregnant. If you are breastfeeding this may be even lower so using a lubrication such as a KY jelly may help ease this and make sex and oral sex with your partner more enjoyable.

So my top tips to round this awkward over sharing blog post off is:

  • Only have sex when YOU feel ready
  • Choose a time when the baby is fed, clean and asleep
  • If it hurts or feels uncomfortable it’s ok to stop and try again at another time
  • Choose positions which make you feel comfortable so you can enjoy it
  • If wearing a chemise, bra, corset, pair of Spanx in bed makes you feel more confident then go for it!
  • ALWAYS use contraception – even if you are breastfeeding
  • And remember the more pelvic floor exercises you do, the tighter your muscles will be and the less likely you are to wet yourself on a trampoline!

Everything You Need to Know About Assisted Deliveries

This blog post is to help you prepare for the ‘what if’ scenario if you need an assisted delivery for the birth of your baby.

An assisted delivery means when a doctor uses an instrument such as forceps or ventouse cup (sometimes called a Kiwi cup) to deliver your baby’s head. Around one in eight women deliver their baby in this way in the UK. This can be because

  • there are concerns about the baby’s heart rate
  • your baby is in an awkward position
  • you’re too exhausted and have been pushing for a long time

A forceps consists of two smooth metal long ‘salad spoon’ type instruments which are curved to shape around the sides of your baby’s head.

delivery_forceps

These are fitted carefully by the doctor and the handles of the forceps are then locked together securely. As you get a contraction the doctor will gently pull down onto the forceps as you push to guide your baby’s head to entrance of your vagina. When your baby’s head begins to crown and stretch your perineum the doctor may make a cut called an episiotomy to make the space in your vagina and perineum to allow for the baby’s head to be born. Once to the head is delivered the doctor will remove the forceps from around your baby’s head and wait for another contraction to deliver the shoulders and rest of your baby.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN HAVING A FORCEPS DELIVERY:

  • you are more likely to have an episiotomy which will require stitches which are done by the doctor (these are disolveable.)
  • if you don’t have an epidural, local anaesthetic will be injected into the area before the doctor makes the cut so you not feel it
  • you are more likely to bleed from the ‘cut’ (episiotomy) therefore your overall blood loss will be more
  • if after 3 pulls the baby cannot be delivered in this way the delivery should be abandoned and a caesarean section should be considered
  • therefore most forceps deliveries happen in theatre for this reason
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your can still have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can cut the cord
  • you will require a catheter to be inserted into your urethra to empty your bladder of urine which usually stays in for 12 hours following the birth of your baby
  • you have an increase chance of having short term incontinence problems such as not be able to control your wind or bowel movements
  • you may feel more internal and external bruising from the forceps delivery than a ‘natural’ delivery
  • you may therefore need stronger pain relief after the delivery to make you more comfortable especially when sitting to feed your baby or going to the toilet
  • your baby is likely to be born with some markings on its face such as bruising on the side of the forehead and circular red marks around the cheeks. These should go after 24-48 hours
  • due to bruising around your baby’ jaw and mouth they can find breastfeeding more difficult and you both may require extra support. Some women choose to use a Cranial Osteopath once discharged from hospital

A ventouse delivery (or kiwi cup) is when a doctor applies a small silicone cup to the top of your baby’s head inside your vagina. Once the cup is in place, the air is sucked out of it using a foot-controlled vacuum pump, or a hand-held pump.

vacuum-extraction

It can be noisy if a machine is used, so be prepared. When it is securely fixed, the doctor will ask you to push with your next contraction. The doctor will pull on the cup to help your baby out. Sometimes the cup comes off the baby’s head, which even if it sounds alarming, won’t cause any harm to your baby. After 3 pulls the baby’s head should begin to crown and stretch the perineum. Unlike a forceps birth where more space is require, with a ventouse delivery you are less likely to need an episiotomy. As the head is delivered the cup is removed so the doctor can deliver the rest of your baby.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN HAVING A VENTOUSE DELIVERY:

  • it can often be performed in the delivery room rather than theatre
  • it is more likely to leave your baby with a temporary swelling on her head (cephalhaematoma).
  • and more likely to cause bleeding inside your baby’s eye (retinal haemorrhage) which look like blood shot in the whites of your baby’s eyes
  • you may not always need an episiotomy as less space is required of the instrument being used by the doctor
  • you may still need a catheter inserted for up to 12 hours following the birth
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your should still be able to have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can still cut the cord

It is important to remember that if a doctor recommends an instrumental delivery you still have the choice to question their decision and where possible take time with your midwife and birth partner to discuss what is best for you and your baby. A good acronym to remember and to use at any point of your pregnancy or labour is BRAIN.

B – what are the benefits of doing what you recommend?
R – what are the risks?
A – what are the alternatives?
I – what does my intuition tell me?
N – what happens if we do nothing?

Sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid an assisted birth but good planning and preparation during your pregnancy can help you and your partner understand the options available to you. For example having an epidural increases your chance of having as assisted delivery because:

  • It may slow your labour down, especially the second stage of labour when you have to start pushing, because it can be very difficult to know if you’re pushing correctly as you are numb in the area you need to focus on
  • It increases the risk of your baby moving into the wrong position and therefore forceps or ventouse may be required to help turn the baby into a better position

But it’s equally important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. No one is going to think you’ve given up or couldn’t do it if you require an instrumental delivery. And the same goes for an epidural. Your birth is about it being positive for you and I have been at many many births where women had an epidural and a ventouse delivery and it’s been wonderful, beautiful and empowering. Milli Hill founder of The Positive Birth Movement says ” A good birth doesn’t have to be a hippy dippy ‘natural’ birth, all candles, knitting midwives and placenta smoothies. Many women who have hospital births that don’t go the way they planned and end in interventions such as an instrumental delivery, report feeling positive about what happened. Milli goes on to explain why, “This is because how a woman is spoken to and treated as she has her baby is much much more important than the actual mode of delivery. Women need to feel that they have been consulted, respected and given the information they need to make free choices in the best interest of themselves and their child. This allows them to begin motherhood feeling strong, capable and mentally healthy.”

And also please be reassured that eight out of 10 women who have an assisted birth have a normal birth next time around.

Has anyone else had an assisted delivery and would like to share their experience? Any tips on coping afterwards?

For more information about assisted deliveries please see:

NHS Choices

NCT Assisted Vaginal Birth

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Judith and Simon

This birth story is really something special. I first met Judith during a meal back in 2005. She had prepared a Sunday roast dinner for her husband and 3 children and I was guest of honour. There was some element of pressure during this meal. I was on my best behaviour. Ensuring I used my cutlery correctly I tried to maintain my up most to impress her with my knowledge of the war in the Middle East whilst coming across as the sort of 20 year old young woman she may want to one day welcome into her family. The meal was a success, her cooking was delicious and I must have made an OK impression as I can now call her my Mother-in-law. She is an avid reader of my blog and very sweetly asked me if she could share her birth story when she had my husband 31 years ago this Friday! In honour of his birthday here is the story of how he made his entrance into the world. I like to think of this as a vintage birth story.

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Always the protective Mother

 

And the doting Granny

And the doting Granny

“I’d had a straightforward pregnancy – if you didn’t count the 16 weeks of non stop vomiting that is. You can really get fed up with mashed potato and fizzy water as sustenance, but otherwise, all was good. I’d been to a few NHS antenatal classes, after which all I could recall was the advice not to cross my ankles as they’d swell….

Right, bag’s packed, husband’s sandwiches are in the freezer – it’s September 18th 1982 – D day – so where’s the baby?

Being blissfully ignorant, we took as gospel the date we’d been given for our baby’s arrival. The day passed and I’d virtually given up hope of the baby arriving, and was sitting on the stairs watching my husband putting a new letterbox in our front door, when I became aware that I was sitting in a puddle – waters had broken!

No sign of contractions but after about half an hour, gentle waves started to break across my stomach and I became fascinated by looking like a beach ball being pumped up as each contraction hit. As per instructions from the hospital, we went in when the contractions were 5 minutes apart. As we drove into Cambridge, we were both nervous but excited. Blissful ignorance had kicked in again, but our rosy picture of peace and serenity was ruptured by a) the football sized crowd of other ‘parents in labour’, and b) the business-like ‘seen it all before’ attitude of the staff. Did they not know that we were having a baby??!!

We went into what looked and felt like a holding pen, where having been examined (3cm dilated), I refused to be shaved, but was badgered into having an enema – emerged feeling like c**p. Eventually, we were taken to the delivery room – to this day my husband and I think it was a stationery cupboard, not a delivery room (see photo), but hey ho…

The contractions were getting much stronger, and I was struggling to work with them. 2 cylinders of gas and air later, I was given pethidine and nodded off for an hour or so. Stuck on the bed with a monitor strapped round me, I felt like a beached whale, and very little was happening – except the baby was getting distressed – as was I as he had a foetal scalp monitor screwed into his head (or that’s what I imagined).

We’d arrived at the hospital at about 10pm, and it was now about 7am the following morning. Clive had been sitting with me, but we hadn’t brought any music (did anyone do that in those days?), no massage oils, no cushions, no anything really. A midwife had popped in from time to time to check on me – I didn’t have an assigned midwife, so it was whoever was passing, it seemed to me.

Another hour or so, and no further progress. I was in significant pain and started asking for an epidural (our birth plan had gone out of the window at the point I had pethidine). After a discussion between the midwives and the doctor who had turned up, it was agreed I should have an epidural and the anaesthetist arrived a few minutes later.

Blessed relief as the pain disappeared, but then the calm was broken by the doctor saying that the baby was passing meconium and needed to be born soon. Up to this point, we had been accompanied by a midwife, a trainee, and a doctor who called in from time to time. Suddenly the room filled up – and I do mean filled up. I counted 9 people in the room, some of whom looked as though they were on their way home from a party – a string of coloured beads round her neck in one case. I think they were hoping for something interesting (emergency C section?) to happen.

Clive moved to the head of the bed and gave me lots of encouragement, as at this point I felt I couldn’t go on any more. The anaesthetic was stopped (reduced? – can’t remember), and I was told to push after the next contraction. The baby wasn’t keen on emerging and I had an episiotomy – mention of forceps being made at this point! Eventually, after 14 hours of labour, and just about every chemical and medical intervention we could have had, Simon James arrived in the world at 10.10am on 19th September weighing 6lbs 13oz. The crowds melted away, and we were left to come to terms with our new world.

As I was stitched up, Clive and I sat with our new son, feeling shell shocked – the happiness would kick in later. All either of us wanted at that point was a cup of tea and a good sleep. When I was eventually wheeled to the ward, I was given Simon to hold, but for all the emotional attachment I felt at that moment, he could have been a bag of potatoes! Because of the epidural (?), he was very sleepy and didn’t really come round until much later in the day – when he did, he more than made up for it!

Final thoughts:  

Simon was the first baby I had had any involvement with – I’d looked after babies as a babysitter, but the youngest had been 4 months, so a newborn was really scary.

The antenatal classes I went to were pretty well useless in terms of giving me real practical advice – we went to NCT classes for number 2.

At this point, we were still in the era of mothers (patients) being told what to do, and ‘active’ birth was considered faddy.

I was in considerable discomfort after the birth and finding it difficult to breastfeed, but had no help from the ward staff, who just told me to keep trying. Two weeks later, I gave up breastfeeding and Simon went onto a bottle.

Would I consider my first experience of childbirth a ‘good’ experience – no. But on the positive side, by the time number 2 came along, I was more confident about what I wanted, and didn’t want, and it was altogether a better experience.

 photo (26)

Birth Story Of The Week – Emma and Orla

This beautifully written birth story comes from Emma. Emma and I met when we were at Sixth Form studying for our A-Levels. Emma was always a dreamer, travelled, did amazing things in amazing parts of the world. She was one of those friends on Facebook who had the most incredible photos, you just ached to be doing what she was doing instead of being stuck in the cold British Winters. Then one Christmas eve I had a call from Emma asking if she could take Paracetamol for a cold…… because she was pregnant! I was so thrilled, my first friend in our school group to become a Mama! Emma shares her story with you all, it makes me cry every time I read it. Enjoy.

Emma and Orla

Emma and Orla

‘I’ve just been into your room to check on you sleeping before I go to bed myself. It’s 10:30pm and you’re sideways in your cot, tangled in your blankets. I still catch my breath every night when I do this; and then I hear your shallow breathing and I can feel your chest rising and falling. When you were first born I was in a state of perpetual anxiety, scared that at any point you would just decide to stop breathing.

I still feel like I’ve just had a baby, but I’m starting to think about your 1st birthday party and what to do. I try and remember your birth and some parts are still so present in my memory yet some have faded or were never there due to being exhausted or drugged up.

I remember tiptoeing into the spare bedroom, my Tens machine wired up to my lower back and onto my upper buttocks. The vibrations humming away, reassuringly helpful. My Mum was staying and I woke her up. The contractions were only every 7 minutes or so but I wanted her to know and I thought, I can do this. I went back to bed. This went on the next night too, each night starting around 2am and easing off around 7am. I had a midwife appointment pre-booked the next day and so we went. I had a membrane sweep, “to get things going”. Then there were the crescendo of contractions, one after the other, as if a marching band were on its way through my entire body.

I walked down my road to Sainsburys, I bent over in the customer toilets, outside against lamp posts and in the Indian takeaway restaurant where the man said, “Shouldn’t you be in a hospital?” My boyfriend Tom came home and I thought, “Ok, this is it”. The drive to hospital was uncomfortable, least of all because I was giving the directions. We arrived, and I was admitted. I was 4cm dilated but they needed to get my room ready so we walked around the hospital. I held Toms hand. My mum rang the family. My Tens machine buzzed away.

Inside the hospital again my birthing pool was ready and my pregnancy yoga music was playing. I got into the water and wallowed like a hippo. I relaxed. Too much. I started quoting lines from the Life Of Brian. Tom and mum exchanged concerned looks. My contractions stopped.

A new midwife started her shift, along with a trainee midwife who had an annoyingly deep voice. I lost my concentration. The midwife examined me and gave me another membrane sweep. This time it was agony. The gas and air I sucked on only made me tired. My knees were now knocking together. I could barely stand. I cried. Tom held my hand and my mother pressed and lifted my lower back during each and every contraction helping to relieve the weight, the pain.

Now my memory is hazy and I see parts of the process which aren’t necessarily in order and it spans hours, where every contraction, every few minutes was exhausting. I remember trying to go to the loo and being unable to sit and needing help from Tom. Bending over a ball and saying, “I’m too tired, I don’t have the energy any more . Tom then asking for some drugs and me telling the midwife “I want everything”. Then I remember waiting.

Then finally, being wheeled down the hall to the other ward and given Pethidine which allowed instant pain relief. Respite from the contractions was amazing. I was laid on my side and asked to tell the Anaesthetist when I was having a contraction for the epidural. Then, beautiful numbness. I saw my contractions on a screen. We waited. Tom laid out a place to nap and I slept. I must have slowly come round. I listened to my mum and Tom talk to the midwife, to the new playlist of “Relaxtion” music which I still listen to during sleep.

Then I said “I think I need to poo, or push”. And so I did. Even though I still wasn’t fully dilated. This went on for 20 minutes, with my legs nearly up by my ears. My body a contortion. I should have been in the water of course, squatting. This wasn’t my birth plan. I was lying on my back, trying to push, exactly the way I hadn’t wanted it. Yet I pushed, not knowing how hard or if it was good enough, just numbly pushing until my face went purple. Finally, a head could be seen, I was told to bear down, to push harder, to take another big breath, I was doing well, a snip by the midwife and out she finally came.

After 14 hours, my beautiful girl was born, at 03:37 on the 28th August 2012. She came straight into my arms and Tom cut the umbilical cord. I cried, never having known how such a feeling could be brought into your life in one second. She was perfect, healthy, weighing 7lbs 9.5oz.

photo (11)

Suddenly I was a mummy, and I’m still getting used to it. She slept soundly the first night beside me in hospital in her glass box. I checked on her every 10 minutes despite the tiredness, to see if she was ok. I sat in my hospital bed, next to her, practising saying her name. Having only been decided when Tom had first held her and the midwife had asked “So, what’s she called?” And I looked at him, hoping he’d come round to the one I’d wanted. After what he’d seen me go through I must have convinced him as he then said “I think she looks like Orla”. Me too, I said. And that was that.’